Babur’s interest in recording the details of life may have inspired his grandson Akbar’s fascination with recording the events of his reign in pictures. Although Akbar was technically illiterate, he had knowledge of great literary stories of his forefathers. He wanted to create illustrated chronicles of his own reign for posterity.
These images are from a two-page scene from Akbar’s chronicles known as the Akbarnama. Notice how the details in these paintings are so precise that they may lead us to think that they are snapshots of actual events. The details draw attention to certain characters or messages. Here, Akbar shows his devotion and bravery by attempting to grab a sword and stab himself. Several of his ministers leap to his side to stop him from doing so. Akbar wrestled one of his ministers to the ground but another entreats him to stop. The sword in question has fallen to the side. Notice how details of each courtier are carefully rendered—we can pick out individual turbans and even facial hairs. Like many of the scenes in the chronicle, Akbar is the central character around which history unfolds.